If you are one of the more than four million U.S. citizens who have been infected by the Hepatitis C virus you may have severe liver damage including scarring and swelling of the liver, liver cancer, or liver failure.
Fortunately, due to increased medical options, some Hepatitis C sufferers may be able to achieve a sustained virological response (SVR), which makes the virus almost undetectable. If treatment has been successful you may have little difficulty maintaining employment and working full-time.
Other workers who have Hepatitis C, however, may have debilitating side-effects from the medications or the disease including anemia, sleep difficulties, vomiting, and depression which make it impossible to maintain a work schedule.
So what do you do if you are unable to work due to your Hepatitis C? If you have been diagnosed with hepatitis C and chronic liver disease, in some cases, you may be able to receive Social Security Disability Insurance or SSDI benefits.
Proving disability with Hepatitis C
The Social Security Administration awards SSDI benefits to claimants who have a severe mental or physical health condition which is expected to last for at least 12 continuous months and which does not allow the claimant to work or perform substantial gainful activity. Claimants must also have worked and earned work credits by paying into the Social Security system.
To make their disability determination for Hepatitis C the SSA will first determine if your Hepatitis C is as severe as a listing in their SSA Listing of Impairments. Hepatitis C is evaluated under listing 5.00 Digestive System, 5.05 Chronic Liver Failure. Under this listing the SSA will determine if your chronic liver condition has lead to such issues such as internal bleeding, fluid in the peritoneal or pleural cavity or hepatorenal region or hepatopulmonary syndrome.
If the SSA determines your condition is as severe as the chronic liver failure listing, assuming you meet the nonmedical requirements, they will automatically approve your SSDI application.
Hepatitis C does not meet a listing
What do you do if your condition does not meet a listing? You may still qualify for SSDI benefits, but you will have to be approved for benefits through the medical vocational allowance process. This process will review your condition, your age, your work experience, your transferrable work skills, and your past employment to determine if you have the ability to retrain for new work.
As part of this process the SSA will evaluate the physical and mental restrictions you doctor has placed on you to determine your "residual functional capacity" (RFC). In some cases, if the SSA determines your RFC has limited your ability to work at a substantial and gainful level, you will be approved for SSDI benefits.
The bottom line if you have Hepatitis C is that a diagnosis of the disease will not be sufficient to be approved for SSDI benefits. You will either have to have the severe symptoms listed in the SSA Listing of Impairments or you will have to have evidence that you do not have the RFC to work.